Sarah Phillips: using a girl's picture to get more web traffic

Sarah Phillips: using a girl's picture to get more web traffic

Sarah Phillips was both an internet star, and largely unknown at the same time until yesterday. Unless you read ESPN Page 2 religiously, or happen to really be into sports gaming sites, you may not have even heard of her until yesterday.

It’s a story of identity and (un) professionalism with a few layers to it. Deadspin did all the heavy lifting well and broke it down efficiently.

And from Bleacher Report:


The Deadspin report introduces us to Phillips and covers the swath of her story, from her start at Covers to the report that ESPN had cut ties with her. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Here is a link to Phillips’ initial post with Covers. Of the photos contained within the post, there is no telling which—if any—is Phillips.

One is clearly labeled “Sarah,” but Deadspin notes her looks change in subsequent columns, ditching the blond hair for a brunette look.


Sure, it’s a mildly interesting story about changing identity, professional ethics and life in the social media dominated landscape. And the future of journalism.

Of course, we enjoy it anytime the evil empire looks bad, and ESPN really looks bad since they hired (and yesterday fired) someone they never met in person. They hired and later fired a non-existent in bricks-and-mortar cyber persona.

But this isn’t the most exciting, interesting, enigmatic, higher-order of thinking scandal of all time. I think the sports blogosphere is seriously overrating her and her so-called “saga.” The internet and Twitter is giving this is a little too much attention. This isn’t the ninth wonder of the natural world or the Riddle of the Sphinx.

It’s simply…


…a pen name scam to get more page views. It’s likely just some guy creating a pen name (Like Samuel Langhorne Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain or Lewis Carroll a.k.a. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson or George Orwell a.k.a. Eric Arthur Blair) writing a gambling column, and sticking a picture of a hot young girl on the post in order to simply garner more traffic.

Only the author behind Ms. Phillips knows for certain, so I can’t prove it. But that’s probably what it is in a nutshell.

It’s the law of parsimony. All other things being equal, America as a nation and Google specifically, has a rod up its ass about gambling, so a pseudonym is in order. Since this is a male dominated audience, take on the persona of a sexy 20 year old girl. Sex sells, SEO rises and the audience builds. Yes, it’s fraudulent. But it’s also clever enough.

It’s just not complicated.


Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, MSN and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.


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